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UFC 223 predictions

This had to be the weirdest fight weeks of all time. Last Saturday, we had a fantastic pay-per-view card in our hands, but due to several bizarre incidents, the card we have a week later in not nearly as good. UFC 223 lost many high-level fighters: Tony Ferguson, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Michael Chiesa, Ray Borg, Brandon Moreno and Paul Felder. All these fallouts took a lot of steam away from the Brooklyn event, but even with those losses, UFC 223 still carries some very compelling and important bouts. Fights such as Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta, Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Felice Herrig are crucial for their respective divisions and also promise plenty of action.

What: UFC 223

Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

When: Saturday, April 7. The four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta

I’m going to get a headache if I try to explain how we went from Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov to Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta (so if you don’t know read this).

Nurmagomedov is the most dominant grappler to ever compete in MMA. The Dagestani has an incredible ability to get his opponents down on the canvas and hold them there. To make things worst (for Nurmagomedov’s opponents), Nurmagomedov has a deep gas tank and a high work rate both with his ground-and-pound and grappling. On the feet, we haven’t seen a whole lot from Nurmagomedov, but from what we’ve seen, Nurmagomedov can hold his own and can take a good punch.

Iaquinta is a racehorse in the Octagon. The Long Island fighter stays busy throughout the entire fight and keeps up a high pace. Iaquinta can box and wrestle well. He doesn’t really have any major holes in his game.

I find this fight to be very compelling. Iaquinta might be the best wrestler Nurmagomedov has ever faced in the UFC. My brain tells me this will be an obvious and dominant win for Nurmagomedov, but I’m another part of me is curious to see to what degree Iaquinta will be able to wrestle with Nurmagomedov. If Iaquinta can just stop just some of Nurmagomedov’s takedowns, and if he’s able to edge Nurmagomedov in the few striking exchanges (which he should), you might have a pretty competitive fight.

I’m not sure what to expect here, but I think “The Eagle” will get the win.

Pick: Nurmagomedov

Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

We were all pretty confident that Joanna Jedrzejczyk was going to walk away with the belt at UFC 217. We were wrong.

My biggest takeaways from their first bout were: Jedrzejczyk’s weight cut to 115 pounds is not easy; Namajunas is improving and her training with high-level striker Valentina Shevchenko is paying off.

It’s reasonable to think that both these factors influenced the outcome of the first fight. But the real question is by how much. If Jedrzejczyk has a good cut, will Namajunas’ improvements be enough to get her the win? That’s what we’re going to find out.

I agree with New York Ric, we’ll likely see Jedrzejczyk back to her normal self here. But I’m not sure that’ll be enough to beat the improved Namajunas. I think we’ll see a close, five-round war here. I’m very split here, but I think Namajunas gets it done.

Pick: Namajunas

Renato Moicano vs. Calvin Kattar

This is a very fun booking between two very promising featherweights.

I find Renato Moicano to be very underrated. The Brazilian only has one loss on his record which came to Brian Ortega – who’s just happens to be destroying everyone at 145 pounds. Moicano is a very accurate and technical striker. He has plenty of tools on the feet. Moicano is also a legit grappler with very solid submissions.

Calvin Kattar is one of the most well-rounded fighters at 145 pounds. The 30-year-old fighter has very good wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and a smooth and technical striking game. Kattar fights composed and with a great fight IQ.

This one is tricky. I have Moicano taking this fight, but not with extreme confidence. Kattar is very game here, but I see Moicano’s rangy striking and his solid takedown defense getting him the win here.

Pick: Moicano

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak

This is a showcase fight for Zabit Magomedsharipov. No disrespect to Kyle Bochniak, who’s a talented and tough fighter, but Magomedsharipov is likely the future of the division. Magomedsharipov is extremely skilled and has a great finishing instinct.

I can see Magomedsharipov ending this fight on the feet or on the ground.

Pick: Magomedsharipov

Joe Lauzon vs. Chris Gruetzemacher

Tought fight to call.

Here’s the way I see it: Joe Lauzon is more experienced and far more technical on the feet and on the ground. But Chris Gruetzemacher is tougher, more durable and athletic, and has a lot less milage. I can see Lauzon outclassing Gruetzemacher in a decision or I can see Gruetzemacher bullying his way to a decision.

I’m not too confident on either guy, but I’m slightly leaning towards Gruetzemacher.


Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig

Evan Dunham def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings

Devin Clark def. Mike Rodriguez

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